Horsing around at Six-Mile with the Duhamel Riding Club
by Shelley Richards, 2014
In the late 60’s and early 70’s there seemed to be a real “horse craze” happening in the Kootenays! There was a gang of kids, myself included, in the Six Mile area that decided it was time to have our own club and arena. Horse shows were getting very popular in the area, and we were all excited about competing, so we definitely needed a place to practise.
There was a perfect piece of property on Heddle Bench owned by Duncan Heddle. The family let the club use it for free. At the time, Duncan’s brother Malcom Heddle worked for the Provincial Government and was able to do the levelling of the field. We held work parties to rock pick and build fences. It was very simple, but it was just what we needed! Gordon Speechley helped the kids get organized and we had meetings to elect a President, Vice President, Secretary, etc. We had a small membership at first, but it did not take long to grow. It was decided that the new club’s name would be the Duhamel Riding Club and the truly unique thing about this club was that it was run by the young folks, and the parents were there to help and support.
When the grounds were ready, we held some clinics and later on, put on some mighty fine little horse shows. Along with the Halter , Pleasure and Trail classes, Gymkana was very popular. That included Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, and Stake races. I think that someone donated 3 old oil barrels, so that was perfect. For the Poles, we peeled some very straight poles from the bush, and set them in cans with cement. We would always include fun events such as egg and spoon, saddle up race and even a baby race where a rider would race to the other end of the field and a helper would assist the rider to put on diapers, and drink pop from a bottle with a nipple on it, then jump on the horse and ride back….that one sure got a lot of laughs! Another exciting event I remember was the Overnight race. A rider would run to the far end of the arena, where all their “camping gear” was. They would have to unsaddle and unbridle the horse, unravel the sleeping bag, climb all the way in, and then out, saddle and bridle again and run back…..it was quite a hoot!
We were a dedicated little club; we practiced and played hard. Before long we were a force to be reckoned with!! Not many of us had horse trailers, and those that did shared and many Dad’s, like mine, built a rack for the truck (see photo), just so we could get to the other horse shows. We were proud of our little club, and loved to think that we could give the other club’s a “run for their money”. There was always a show on the May Long Weekend at the park in Kaslo (later moved to their new grounds) and the weekend after, a show at the Crawford Bay Logging Sports. Many of us also attended The Nelson and Trail’s Horse Shows. These were pretty big events and we always did very well, winning lots of ribbons and trophies!
A founding member, Kathy Palmer and her most fantastic horse Banner, are a legend to this day. (Click here to see newspaper articles and photos) She was such an inspiration to us all, and was the backbone of the club.
I have so many happy memories of my time in the Duhamel Riding Club. We were all very horse crazy kids and spent every hour we could riding and having fun. We were so lucky to have a safe place to hang out, and such supportive parents and friends!!!